Building software for better public meetings

Philadelphia City Council Meeting. (Photo: Jared Piper)
Philadelphia City Council Meeting. (Photo: Jared Piper)

Traditional government meetings software, used to publish agendas, minutes, and livestream and archive videos, are in dire need of a modern, affordable upgrade.

There’s a particular need to serve smaller municipalities at scale, something no current government technology vendor does effectively.

Open.Media, powered by the Open Media Foundation, works to change both the public-facing user experience and internal administrative management and innovate an aspect of civic engagement critical to effective public awareness.

Team Open.Media shares how they’re working to build better public meetings software for communities no matter the size.

What is Open.Media?

Open.Media is a Government Transparency Software as a Service (SaaS), connecting state and local governments to all sectors of the public by providing livestreamed and searchable, shareable archived video of government meetings.

What was the inspiration for its founding?

We had helped the Colorado State Legislature launch a website and transparency portal (like Colorado’s C-Span) in 2008. They were paying a commercial firm over $100,000 for streaming services and as YouTube launched their free streaming service, we recognized that we could easily build tools that leveraged YouTube to do the same thing these commercial services were doing for a tenth of the cost.  

What are the key features?

  • YouTube Automation: Our software automatically creates YouTube events for the governments, enabling them to use one simple and familiar interface.
  • Chapter-Marked Video: Our SaaS scrapes government agendas and matches them with automated transcriptions to automatically chapter-mark each agenda item in the video, allowing viewers to jump to the sections they wish to see.
  • Searchable: Video of Open.Media government meetings are searchable by chapter-markers or by automated transcriptions, allowing viewers to jump to any mention of the topics they care about.
  • Shareable: Viewers can easily share snippets of meetings via facebook and twitter, bringing others into the conversation and expanding civic engagement.

How is Open.Media different than similar offerings?

We are the only nonprofit provider of this service.

We’re free for small, rural governments. Over half of all government bodies in the United States serve populations of 5,000 or fewer, yet these governments lack the budgets for commercial transparency and livestream providers. We specialize in a sector of the market that no one else serves.

What do you mean when you say ‘open’ and why does this matter to government?

In an age when the legislative process occurs behind the scenes, out of sight and out of mind to the public, Open.Media opens government to the people.

A very small percentage of our population has the time it takes to go down to their local government, watch meetings, and engage (or the money it takes to pay a lobbyist to do it for them). Open.Media makes it simpler for everyone to watch and engage with local government.

Other industries have learned to meet consumers and constituents where they’re at. Especially younger generations expect it to be convenient to engage via the platforms (e.g. Facebook) and the formats (video) they prefer. Open Media makes this simple and affordable for even the smallest of government entities.

What advice do you have for government leaders researching meetings technology solutions?

Technology is moving so fast. YouTube and other services offer free what you would’ve paid someone hundreds of thousands of dollars to do a few years ago. Free Closed Captions, Free HD and 4K recording, and even cameras are getting so cheap, there’s really no reason not to be making our government more accessible and transparent.

How can others connect with you?

Watch

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh and co-founder/CEO of ProudCity. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at luke@govfresh.com.

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